Three and a Half Day Birding Trip - September 2022
This personalized birding trip was specially designed to cover most of the Yucatan endemics in a short period of time (3 and a half days).
Our first morning started with me picking up Mike Vasi (a birder from Florida) at 06:00 am. We drove for about 20 minutes to our first birding spot and got there while it was still a little dark, as we were driving to our starting point, we saw at least 10 Common Pauraques sitting on the road. Sun came out and birds started singing, some of the best birds from our first stop included: Black-throated Bobwhite, Ruddy Ground Dove, Groove-billed Ani, Mangrove Cuckoo, Lesser Nighthawk, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Gray Hawk, Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Yucatan Woodpecker, Rose-throated Becard, Yucatan Flycatcher, Mangrove Vireo, Yucatan Jay, Yucatan Gnatcatcher, Black Catbird, Yellow-billed Cacique, Gray-throated Chat and Yellow-faced Grassquit.
We got what we needed, so we moved to the coast before the weather got too hot, our goal was to find two very special endemic birds. Fortunately for us, the first bird we saw was one of them, the Mexican Sheartail. Not long after seeing the first target bird, we found a Yucatan Wren perched on top of an Agave. Some other interesting birds we found before heading back to Mérida for a break included: More than a thousand American Flamingos, Clapper Rail, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Least Tern, Black Tern, Wood Stork, Magnificent Frigatebird, Reddish Egret, Mangrove Swallow, Hooded Oriole.
American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber).
In the afternoon, we went back to the coast for more birding, now to a road that goes across mangroves and after some kilometers gets to and old dump/pasture. American Flamingos were really close feeding and posing for pictures, that was great, but we also got some other really nice birds, including: Plain Chachalaca, Caribbean Dove, Zenaida Dove, Squirrel Cuckoo, Cinnamon Hummingbird, Ruddy Crake, Brown Pelican, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Green Kingfisher, Crested Caracara, Olive-throated Parakeet, Barred Antshrike, Tropical Kingbird, Couch's Kingbird, Green Jay, Yucatan Wren, Black-cowled Oriole, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Orange Oriole, Red-winged Blackbird, Mangrove Warbler, Morelet's Seedeater, Cinnamon-bellied Saltator.
Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture (Cathartes burrovianus).
For the second day of the trip, we left Mérida and drove southeast to Valladolid in order to get to a different habitat and a completely different set of birds. Weather was nice and we got quite a few really cool birds. Some of the highlights from our first morning birding in the humid forests of the Yucatan include: Red-billed Pigeon, Lesser Roadrunner, Vaux's Swift, Canivet's Emerald, White-bellied Emerald, Turkey Vulture, Lesson's Motmot, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Yellow-lored Parrot, Tawny-winged Woodcreeper, Northern Bentbill, Greenish Elaenia, Bright-rumped Attila, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Mangrove Vireo, Yucatan Jay, Cave Swallow, Spot-breasted Wren, Clay-colored Thrush, Olive Sparrow, Yellow-billed Cacique, Black-cowled Oriole, Yellow-tailed Oriole, Altamira Oriole, Blackburnian Warbler, Rose-throated Tanager, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Gray-throated Chat, Blue Bunting, Black-headed Saltator.
Northern Bentbill (Oncostoma cinereigulare).
After a very successful morning, we went all the way to Izamal, a "magical town" not so far away from Valladolid, to eat some Yucatecan food. We were specifically looking for a traditional dish called "Dzic de Venado". So after a nice lunch, we went back to Valladolid for a break and went out in the afternoon for more birding.
So, we went to a different location and did some birding before it got dark, adding some birds to the trip list including: Thicket Tinamou, Singing Quail, Green-breasted Mango, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Tropical Pewee, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and Hooded Warbler.
As it got dark, we started the look for nightbirds, and though, this was probably not the best time of the year for them, we managed to get good views of Middle American Screech-Owl and some decent views of Yucatan Poorwill.
On the third day of the trip, we left Valladolid early and headed all the way to the Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve. We were looking for some target birds in the area, but also, going there gave us a chance to add some raptors, warblers and waterbirds. From boardwalks to birding alongside the road, some of the highlights from our morning birding in Rio Lagartos included: Black-throated Bobwhite, Royal Tern, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Mexican Sheartail, Northern Jacana, Little Blue Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, White-tailed Hawk, Great Black Hawk, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Yucatan Wren, Scrub Euphonia, Vermilion Flycatcher, Prothonotary Warbler, Mangrove Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Tennessee Warbler, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, Kentucky Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blue-black Grassquit, Morelet's Seedeater, Yellow-faced Grassquit.
Black-throated Bobwhite (Colinus nigrogularis).
Back in Valladolid and after a good break escaping the hottest part of the day, we went birding in the afternoon. Not many new birds for the trip and we got caught in some rain, but fortunately, rain stopped before dark and that allowed us to try for some nightbirds. They were though, not really willing to show up, but we managed to get at least a brief view of a Yucatan Nightjar.
For our last day, we went to the Coba Archaeological Site, where we did birding both, inside and outside of it. This site, is close to a lagoon, so the combination of humid forest and water makes an interesting habitat for a good diversity of birds. The highlights from our last morning included: Ruddy Crake, Russet-naped Wood-Rail, Limpkin, Northern Jacana, Wood Stork, Least Bittern, Snail Kite, White-bellied Emerald, Black-headed Trogon, Gartered Trogon, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Yucatan Woodpecker, Smoky-brown Woodpecker, Pale-billed Woodpecker, Lineated Woodpecker, Mayan Antthrush, Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Masked Tityra, Northern Bentbill, Eye-ringed Flatbill, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Tropical Pewee, Piratic Flycatcher, Rufous-browed Peppershrike, Lesser Greenlet, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-green Vireo, Brown Jay, Spot-breasted Wren, Scrub Euphonia, Melodious Blackbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Red-throated Ant-Tanager, Red-legged Honeycreeper, Black-headed Saltator, Blue-gray Tanager.
Russet-naped Wood-Rail (Aramides albiventris).
After a very productive morning birding in the forests of Quintana Roo, I took Mike to Playa del Carmen so he could take a ferry to Cozumel Island and be ready for the next day, as we made arrangements for him to go birding with our local guide on the island (Elvis).
So after the three and a half days birding together (not including Cozumel Island with Elvis) we got 191 bird species on our trip list. Quite a fun trip!
Written by Luis Trinchan Guerra.